Today's focus on filling jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—fields is reflected in the career paths of the area's top graduates: medicine, physical therapy, nursing, engineering and financial advising.
But that didn't stop Lily Keller, 18, Woodlan Junior-Senior High School's Valedictorian from choosing interior design, a career which Keller said allows her to be creative.
Keller is one of only a handful of area valedictorians and salutatorians that plan to pursue arts-related careers this fall.
She said she's always loved art, but her art and photography classes at Woodlan helped cultivate her passion.
Of her choice to pursue a career that doesn't focus on chemical reactions and mathematical equations, Keller said she likes to set herself apart, a fact illustrated by her valedictorian speech which she sang to her fellow graduates while strumming her guitar.
“I like to be different from others and not follow the same path as everyone else,” she said.
South Side High School Valedictorian Austin Lewellen said many students that graduate in the tops of their classes feel STEM fields are what they should pursue. Lewellen has chosen instead to study double bass performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I like to consider the arts another major subject (like math and science),” he said. “For me, it's another area of study that's not different from anything else.”
He said some studies even support the idea that listening to classical music or having creative outlets like art help students perform better in other classes.
“I learn easily, which may or may not have to do with music,” he said.
Lewellen has been playing instruments and listening to music, particularly classical, since he was young. Most of his family members are also professional musicians, a tradition he plans to keep alive despite the scarcity of available jobs.
“I'm a firm believer that you should go into something you love,” he said. “It's definitely a risk worth taking for me.”